11/04/2004

Post-Mortem

PSA:There will be no gloating over the election in this blog. Ever.

In my Livejournal post from November 1st, I looked at the last batch of poll numbers and augered that the death of American conservatism was at hand. It appears that I could not have been more incorrect. I consider myself to be marginally competent when it comes to evaluating political circumstance; where did I go wrong?

The question is not a self-absorbed one. I think that there were many people on the other side of the aisle who looked at this election as the year that they were going to beat back the conservatives who (in their view) were stealing their country from them. While very few reasonable Democrats were popping champagne corks early, a good number of them felt that they had cause to be fairly optimistic about their chances. So, the question of "where did I go wrong" could also be asked as "where did the Democrats go wrong?"

Youth Vote - Like most people, I assumed that America's youth would turn out in record numbers, egged on by the untold sums spent by the Vote or Die, Rock the Vote and other pop-culture efforts gunning for the president. The youth vote was one of the big stories of this election, but not in the way that I thought it would be. While Civic Youth is proudly claiming this election to be a watershed for the youth vote, reporting that 51.6 percent of voters under 30 went to the polls. The devil in the details of these numbers is that less than 10 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 showed up. For whatever reason, it appears that they couldn't be bothered. It may have benefited my candidate, but you know what? Shame on them. Put down your goddamn XBox controller and stop watching Survivor long enough to get off your ass and fucking vote. If anyone in this election can truly be called a "moron", it's the 18-year-old kid who didn't vote. If you know one, berate him or her loudly.

Echo Chamber - I've written before about the "echo chamber" effect; if most of your social set is comprised of people who think the same way that you do, it's human nature to think that your view is commonly held. In the case of Democrats, I think this skewed their perception of how their message was playing to people on the other side. They thought they were winning the argument. In my case, I fell victim to a "reverse echo chamber". My social set is approximately 90% Democrat, and after talking to them long enough, I began to presume that their point of view was commonly held and that conservatives were in the minority across the country. This does not appear to have been the case.

Early Exit Polls - In the aftermath of the 2000 and 2004 elections, I have reached the conclusion that exit polls are a pestilence on the political process and will never be a reliable indicator of how the election is progressing. It's very simple to prove: When you bake a batch of chocolate-chip cookies, the chips are not evenly distributed. Biting into the first cookie and finding four chips does not mean that the next cookie will have four chips, or that four is the average number of chips per cookie. It means that you found four chips. The next cookie may only have one chip. It may have eight. When the 2pm exit polls were released, they showed a fairly positive picture for the Kerry campaign. I took that as validation of what I had seen in the earlier pre-election polls, and many Democrats did, as well. Exit polls do not serve the electorate. The media did an admirable job this time around by not calling states for one candidate or the other until the outcome was inevitable. I hope hey will use that same restraint in the future and eschew early exit polling.

I don't think that these issues are the primary reasons that the election went the way that it did. For me, the short answer is that the Republicans got more people off the bench than the Democrats. Republicans focused on getting religious voters, who largely abstained in 2000 (heh, he said "abstained"). Democrats seemed to focus on youth turnout, and the youth didn't show up.

I welcome your thoughts and feedback.